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Letter to MSP Community: Campus Inclusivity

Dear MSP Community,

I’m writing to provide an update on steps we’re taking to further the inclusivity of our campus environment.

In December Vice President Zalapi and I received a proposal from the Executive Board of MSP’s Inclusion Diversity and Equity Alliance (IDEA). The proposal included recommendations for improving policies and practices specifically related to gender identity, including the use of pronouns, restroom use, signage, and data collection. These recommendations were informed by the APA Graduate Student Organization Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, specifically in their Guide for Supporting Trans and Gender Diverse Students (2019).

Photo of Dr. Fran Brown, PsyD wearing a pink blazer and sitting in a grey chair.

IDEA’s proposal included three primary recommendations.

Recommendation #1: Increase discussion and training related to pronoun usage to expand student/staff/faculty understanding of the gender spectrum and reduce unintentionally biased language. 

MSP administration, faculty, and staff are committed to ongoing training and dialogue that enhances understanding of gender pronoun usage. You will see that training at work in group meetings, class introductions and other forms of verbal and non-verbal communications. In addition, we are developing a guide that informs invited speakers and guests of our commitment to inclusion, and our expectation that gender diversity will be respected on our campus.

Also, in print at this time is a resource that provides guidance on gender pronouns and variations. This resource is small enough to be carried in a wallet, and we will make it available to the entire MSP community. We thank the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, which created this resource and provided us with permission to adapt it for MSP use.

Recommendation #2: Make gender-inclusive restrooms available. 

Although the restrooms in the administrative area have been designated “unisex” and available for student use, we understand that this was not widely communicated. New signs for these two restrooms have been ordered, sans male and female figures and indicating gender inclusivity. Also, both restrooms off the Atrium will soon have signs indicating that gender inclusive restrooms are located in the administrative area. Planning for the new building had already included this consideration, and there will be gender inclusive restrooms on the main floor, in the Clinic and on the second floor. 

Recommendation #3: Expand gender categories on materials used to gather demographic data.  

Currently, information on gender is collected only for required government reporting. Our process, which follows best practice recommendations from the Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO), is to report gender as indicated on the student’s driver’s license. We are aware that driver’s licenses largely reflect sex as assigned at birth, which may not match an individual’s gender identity.

To allow gender variant students the opportunity to express their gender identities, at future orientations we will provide an optional demographic form whereby new students may disclose their gender identity, preferred name, and pronoun preferences, as well as race and ethnicity. In this way we validate gender diversity and allow our enrollment reporting to reflect the diversity of our community. We are committed to providing the option for all students to record gender identity, pronouns, and preferred name on school records. This process will take place over time and we will provide updates as they occur.

Vice President Zalapi and I appreciate this opportunity for open dialogue, collaboration, and leadership, and value IDEA’s commitment to advancing communication around critical issues. Many thanks to IDEA’s Executive Board and Staff/Faculty Advisors, including Angel McKissic, Cassianna McCants, Jared Boot, Logan Chappell, Paul Farley, Andre Johnson, Carrie Pyeatt, Dr. Danielle Balaghi, and Dr. Ann Smith. Their proposal identified an opportunity for improvement, reflected research on best practices, and provided specific recommendations for change.

We look forward to the implementation of these changes as critical to an inclusive academic learning environment. 

President Fran Brown